BARB MCLEAN/COURTESY OF LOLA VAN ELLA
Lola Van Ella left her mark on St. Louis burlesque — now she's hoping the city can come to the aid of hurricane-devastated New Orleans.
Before she moved for New Orleans in 2018, you could hardly swing a tassel around St. Louis without running into burlesque maven Lola Van Ella. But late last month, with Hurricane Ida bearing down on the Big Easy, Van Ella piled her pets, partner and possessions into her car and headed north.
"We knew we had to get the hell out of there," she says in an interview. "There was really no question about staying or going. We knew we needed to leave, and we were really lucky and privileged that we could leave."
Indeed, while Van Ella has spent the last week or so at her childhood home with her parents in St. Louis, her fellow performers still in New Orleans have suffered without air conditioning through citywide power outages, as well as a largely non-functioning sewer system — not to mention, of course, a shutdown of the city's venues and burlesque scene.
But in St. Louis, where Van Ella spent years performing and teaching burlesque, the scene has opened its arms for the storm-tossed refugees. This coming Friday, Van Ella herself is hosting what she promises will be a "massive, all-night show" — with all proceeds going to New Orleans performers and direct aid groups that are providing essential support to residents of the recovering city.
The idea for a telethon-style benefit show, dubbed the "Big Easy Tease-a-thon,"
went from concept to reality in a matter of days.
"This community is so badass, it came together really quickly," Val Ella says. "A bunch of people volunteered to be a part of it, either to perform or work backstage or do pre-show stuff. It's turning into a pretty huge event, which is pretty exciting."
The one-night event is set to open its doors at 7 p.m. in Soulard's Mad Art Gallery (2727 South 12th Street; 314-771-8230).
Then, following a cocktail hour and raffle, the show itself starts at 8.
"In this day and age, when like, everything is terrible and there's so much stuff that's upsetting, it is so easy to forget what ties us together," Van Ella notes. "That's what this show really feels like: people rallying around one another and lifting everybody else up. And it's been really heartwarming to be back in St. Louis and to see that happen."
The Big Easy Tease-a-thon starts 8 p.m. Friday at the Mad Art Gallery located at 2727 South 12th Street in St. Louis. Tickets start at $25, with VIP seating available at $40. For more information on ticketing, visit the show's Eventbrite page. For updates on the lineup and streaming options, keep an eye on the show's event page on Facebook.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
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